A let-down

Many peace-lovers feel let down. Though, in response to King Gyanendra’s call to the political parties to recommend their candidates for the post of Prime Minister, some three dozen people have submitted their applications, the five agitating parties have decided not to do so. This is unfortunate as it will make it much harder to resolve the crisis. The next Prime Minister will face the daunting tasks of holding the elections, which does not appear feasible without some sort of an understanding with the Maoists. In the first place, he is unlikely to win the support of all sides in forming the Council of Ministers. Indeed, ignoring the Maoists, these parties are supposed to represent the majority of the voters, as they, along with the breakaway Deuba-led NC (D), accounted for over 90 per cent of the seats in the dissolved House of Representatives.

The Nepalis and the international community had wanted the palace and the parties to work together to end the conflict and bring the derailed democracy back on the rails. The King had met a series of demands made by the five parties — he had withdrawn the prohibitory orders, released the detainees, even secured Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa’s resignation whom they saw as a stumbling block to their rapprochement with the King, and granted collective audience. And in the latest move, he had appealed to the political parties to recommend prime ministerial names, but the leaders of these parties who had said they would choose a common candidate within a minute, if need be, differed over whether to send the name at all.

The CPN-UML had insisted on sending a common name, not necessarily a CPN-UML leader, along with five-party conditions. The other parties, particularly the Koirala-led Congress, vetoed the proposal. The CPN-UML had argued that a common candidate would put moral presssure on the King, and the five parties, once in power, could set about fulfilling their demands and “exposing regression” from within. But, for Girija Prasad Koirala, the royal communique did not respond to the five-party demands, so he had “very great reservations” about it. As a result, the five parties have slammed shut the door of reconciliation opened by the King. Rightly or wrongly, Koirala’s veto is being seen by many as an effort to prevent the CPN-UML from heading a governement. Several Congress leaders, including Koirala, had made it known that the Congress also coveted the post. On the other hand, the rift between the Congress and the CPN-UML may affect the ongoing movement. When a party of Congress’s standing should have shown statesmanship at such a critical time of Nepali history, it has failed to rise to the occasion. This may prove too heavy a price for the Nepali people to pay.